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H.R. Giger, creator of the Alien still annoyed with Hollywood

Found this article over at National Post. It’s the 30th Anniversary of one of Giger’s most interesting creations, yet from what the article states, Giger is still upset with how Hollywood treated him. It’s not surprising to learn that any artist is treated a certain way when it comes to the movie business. Whenever a franchise becomes a money maker, any artistic integrity goes out the window. It is sad to learn that Giger could have contributed far more to the movie industry. I have always loved his work and would have loved to see him develop characters and environments for more movies.

I’m attaching the article here, just in case it disappears from the original site.

H.R. Giger: Father of the alien

Wolfgang Dios, Weekend Post Published: Friday, October 30, 2009

Three decades ago, a loathsome, worm-like parasite burst from the chest of a hapless spaceship crew member – an electrifying moment that made cinematic history, as well as the reputations of pretty well everyone concerned. Sigourney Weaver, playing beleaguered Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley, had previously best been known for a minor role in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, and director Ridley Scott for his work in British television commercials.

The creature was designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger based on the nightmarish creature that had appeared in his then just-published art book, Necronomicon (Masks Of The Dead), which director Scott had seen. Together the two conferred on what the parasite should look like when it erupted from its human host’s body. Giger readily admits he was influenced by another artist. “It was Francis Bacon’s work that gave me the inspiration,” Giger said, “Of how this thing would come tearing out of the man’s flesh with its gaping mouth, grasping and with an explosion of teeth … it’s pure Bacon.”

Giger didn’t directly work on any of the sequels, and his subsequent Hollywood experiences were not always salutary. Though Alien brought him worldwide renown and an Oscar in 1980 for best achievement in visual effects, the filmmakers continued to use variations on Giger’s original creature without involving the artist. “With the fourth Alien film, they just took my creations, they used my ‘chest-burster’ and they didn’t even give me any credit. It’s offensive. I mean, one of the reasons the film became so famous was because of my Alien, wasn’t it?” The question is rhetorical. He pauses. “For the fourth Alien film, Sigourney Weaver got US$11 million. I received nothing.” (Weaver received US$33,000 for appearing in the original. Quite a pay hike.).

Giger lives in three attached row houses he has owned since the early ’70s in a working-class suburb of Zurich. These have been interconnected with a labyrinthian series of narrow passageways and steep stairs, the rooms painted black and doorways shaped like human forms through which one passes as if transfigured. Everywhere are Giger’s huge, largely monochrome canvases, his surrealistically organic, bio-mechanical sculptures and tall, sinuous armchairs in the form of vertebrae and skulls. It’s a singular vision, blending the erotic with the macabre and it is here that he greets guests, around a cast aluminium table etched with biometric figures, in the cold and in the dark, since this particular house’s heating system failed on the previous day and had yet to be repaired. Wine and several glasses made their appearance.

The 69-year-old Giger is somewhat rotund, with a broad face and blue eyes, his silver-blond swath of hair in stark contrast to the black pyjamas he invariably wears, and sandals. (He usually works all night and doesn’t rise until two or so in the afternoon.) But he hasn’t painted since 1992. “I wasn’t happy with painting,” he says. “I began to feel I was repeating myself. Many projects didn’t really seem to get anywhere. But,” he hastens to add, “I still draw. Recently I’ve concentrated on sculpture and there always seems to be an opportunity to do that, in terms of exhibitions and so forth.”

After Alien, Giger’s subsequent forays into Hollywood met with mixed results, creating the remarkable creature Sil for the first Species film (1995), which was played by Natasha Henstridge. Yet again, Giger’s designs were requested and then rejected for the sequel. Appalled by the final result, he insisted that his name be removed from Species II’s credits. Tim Burton turned down Giger’s version of the Batmobile for the second Batman film, and Giger also contributed designs for a David Lynch version of Dune that never materialized.

But much like stop-motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen, Giger’s creations and reputation as a serious artist have survived a good deal better than some of the second-rate films in which his beasts appear. Giger is nothing if not versatile, with a restless imagination that has conjured everything from furniture to LP covers (including a highly controversial Dead Kennedys album) to Tarot cards and even shopping bags for a Swiss grocery chain.

One of his dreams was to collect works by other artists and establish a permanent exhibition space. To accomplish this, 11 years ago Giger purchased part of the medieval castle St. Germain in the Swiss town of Gruyeres, which is notable primarily the piquant cheese that bears its name. There he established a museum for phantasmagoric art.

It’s all here, and open to the public: the complete genesis of the Alien creature in its myriad forms, the seductively lethal Sil, the Harkonnen furniture intended for Dune and other visionary works.

There’s even a Canadian connection. In 1999, Giger’s ex-wife purchased an art book by the Swiss/Canadian painter Rudolf Stussi at a gallery, and gave it to Giger as a Christmas present. Giger admired Stussi’s mastery of distorted perspectives and eventually offered the artist, who resides and teaches in Toronto, a show at the castle in 2005, the only Canadian so honoured among the 14 exhibitions that have taken place. “I found his work wonderful,” Giger enthuses, “A kind of contemporary Expressionism, which I happen to love.”

Success wasn’t always there for Giger, certainly not in the beginning. “I was always astonished that so many people appreciated my work,” he says ruefully. “When I was young, I entered so many art competitions. I never won. I was always shut out, isolated.”

While he has often been quoted as preferring to win art awards rather than the Oscar he did win, he does treasure recognition of his work by both the public and his peers.

“I just want to be happy,” he concludes. He waves his hand at the dark, claustrophobic and chilly room from which his creatures seem to and beckon. “I would like to live my life in the way I wish, and, with my museum, to leave something meaningful behind after I die. That’s all.”

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    Nov 3, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    As usual, artists responsible for the visual success of a movie or a record sleeve rarely get anything our of the profits made. If a producer of a director can expect his fair share of the deal, the artist rarely get its quote: artist rarely care about the business element and often get neglected in the process. Too happy to collaborate to a project they enjoy and always immersed in their creation, the artists aren’t there when the big contracts gets signed. Sad fact but also a sad truth.

    Think of all those artists which made albums, posters, movies and whatever else succesful and, usually, they got peanuts for their work.

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    Nov 3, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Wow! Inspiring and sad about how he was treated in movies.

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